Making a splash
Parenthood has taught me patience.
Just not enough of it. Bath time with Oliver has always been interesting. He loves the water, which is great, considering the kid needs to be hosed off pretty regularly. Now that he’s crawling, getting into everything and feeding himself (albeit haphazardly), Ollie leaves a swath of sticky destruction in his wake. The kind that no paper towel or wipe can easily erase.
Getting Ollie into the tub is no problem, but getting him out? This requires the sort of strength I would only possess in a lifeor-death situation. Herculean strength, one might say. Being almost 30 pounds of pure opinion, it’s hard to make Oliver do anything Oliver doesn’t want to do. And he absolutely, 100 percent does not want to leave his cozy tub for the cold bathroom. Ever.
Like many babies, his first tub was the kitchen sink. He was so tiny — less than 5 pounds — that Spencer and I would barely fill it and gently lower him into the sudsy water, the two of us maneuvering around one another while Ollie closed his eyes to enjoy his spa experience.
Those tranquil evenings are now replaced by an hour-long playtime that Spencer must spearhead. Baths are just another chance for Ollie to run amok, which is amusing . . . until the splashing starts. Mama can’t do that. I’ve never, ever, ever been comfortable getting my face wet. I can’t explain it, and I know it’s not rational. I just despise having water on my face, in my eyes, running down my nose. I could blame it on my contact lenses, but this started long before I finally agreed to correct my terrible vision.
So no, I don’t swim. Not in a pool, not in the ocean.
No, I don’t stick my face under running water: in the shower, in a bath, in a hot tub, in a sprinkler. Anywhere.
Oliver, being 16 months old and all, does not care about such petty concerns. He finds it hilarious to watch me cower, shriek and duck his thrashing limbs as soap bubbles go everywhere. My husband has kindly stepped in for most of the heavy lifting — and has emerged from beside the tub looking like he fell in a lake. His T-shirt had be wrung out.
Beyond the water-in-the-face aspect, I find I’m just not a patient parent at bath time. I’m always running through my mental to-do list, and having Spencer take over means I’m free to tackle exciting projects like, you know, folding the clean laundry still in a pile from last month or emptying the dishwasher just to fill it right back up again.
It’s pretty bad that my “free time” is consumed by chores put off since the last time I had free time. But when Ollie is in the bath, splashing someone else in the face, I can take care of nagging projects.
When I have actually plunked down by the tub, I watch Oliver with something like envy. He is so focused on any task put before him: squirting bath toys, trying to wrestle away a shampoo bottle. On Sunday, it was capsizing a boat.
Trying to get his attention, Spencer laughed at Ollie’s concentration while holding a neon toy yacht underwater until it would bounce back to the surface. “He’s definitely focused on sinking the S.S. Minnow over here,” he said.
I admire that laser-sharp attention. That pursuit of a single goal. It’s not something I can relate to anymore. Adults have lists for their lists, text messages to remind them of items on their lists, spouses and bosses and doctor’s offices all calling to remind them of responsibilities and appointments.
When I do have a moment to just sit, I don’t know what to do with myself. Knowing there is always something I could be doing means I rarely give myself the grace to simply relax. I’ve forgotten how.
My husband, on the other hand? He sits by Ollie until bathwater has morphed their fingertips into prunes. Spencer is endlessly amused by soap art and happily engages Oliver in a battle between the army of rubber ducks and Sophie the Giraffe, a teether who accidentally became a bath toy. He knows how to play.
I really admire Spencer’s patience — his ability to stay in the moment, content to sit with a child hitting him with tidal waves. I can hear them as I restock the towels, their giggles echoing down the hall.
We all have our strong suits, I guess.
And anyway, last month’s laundry isn’t going to fold itself.